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Boost to national testing study will ‘offer new COVID-19 insights’

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The study will be the largest of its kind The study will be the largest of its kind

The Office for National Statistics will significantly expand its infection survey to 400,000 people in England, making it the country’s largest study tracking COVID-19 in the general population.

The ONS COVID-19 Infection Survey tracking the virus in the general population will expand from regularly testing 28,000 people per fortnight in England to 150,000 by October. The survey aims to increase to 400,000 people across the entire project in England.

‘This country now has the capacity to test for coronavirus on an unprecedented scale and this ONS survey will be a crucial part of this work – improving our understanding of the rate of infection in the population and how many people have antibodies,’ said Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary.

‘This will allow us to further narrow down the areas potentially affected by local outbreaks and continue our fight to curb the spread ahead of winter. I urge anyone who is able to take part in this study to do so – you will be playing a vital role in the fight against the virus. The data and insight gathered will help inform our national, regional and local responses to the pandemic, allowing this nation to get back to the things we love doing.’

The ONS study will provide both a national picture of how the virus is spreading as well as granular estimates of the number of COVID-19 cases down to local level. Crucially, this will allow government and local authorities to further narrow down the areas which may be undergoing outbreaks, potentially reducing the number of people affected by new restrictions and allowing for swift action to curb the spread of the virus.

‘Vigilance is key to containing this pandemic and the extra data on the spread of infections and antibodies at local level will be invaluable to the planning of effective local responses,’ said Professor Sir Ian Diamond, UK National Statistician.

‘Following this expansion, the ONS-led COVID-19 Infection Survey will be the biggest of its kind in this country. If you’ve been approached to take part then please do so. You will be helping us all to contain this terrible virus and get on with our lives.’

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